Posts Tagged ‘listening’

Unheard Of

While listening is the core of most of our communications … most people stink at it.

—Scientific American, “Now Hear This: Most People Stink at Listening!” by  Bob Sullivan and Hugh Thompson, May 3, 2013

Perhaps they lisp like tiny orange tongues,

each slender calendula petal

as it escapes from the bud

And dust, as it settles, I imagine it sighs.

I would love to hear the lulling of shadows

as they melt into dusk.

Do they shush the grating of crickets,

the buzzing of this body before I lay me

down to steep in night?

I have wondered about the spiny sound

that pinecones make when they grow

their prickles. And the tune of bones

when nothing hurts. And the blood in the heart

when we say goodbye—does it scrape?

Or shriek? Or mewl?

It is one thing to forget. It’s another

to never even know—to miss out on

the bluster of dandelion seeds,

the honeyed pitch of sunrise,

the hush inside the temple of the gourd.

It makes me want to listen

more closely to the world,

to clean out the ears of my heart.

To sit rapt with the stone that remembers

when it was red and molten. To attend

to the stretching of the root,

to the prayer of the sprout,

to the dew as it disappears.  

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In every conversation

there is a table made of listening.

Sometimes the tables are beautiful,

solid, clean—the kind

that can support anything

you put on them.

Sometimes, they’re like

the tv dinner trays

of my childhood—

a little rickety, but they’ll do

if what’s put on them is light.

Sometimes they’re so cluttered

that whatever’s placed on their surface

is almost immediately lost.

Let tonight’s table have a small vase of flowers

and a candle perhaps, nothing else.

May it be small enough we might

see each other’s eyes, might notice

every nuance of breath. Whomever

I am most nervous to invite,

may I invite them. And though

the tea is just a metaphor,

may I offer. May they accept.

Find this poem published in the amazing ONE ART POETRY

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Even as the snow was falling,

the birds in the branches

kept singing into morning,

easing their bright notes

into the thin gray spaces

between snowflakes.


There are days, imagine,

when the birds go unheard.

And it isn’t for lack of song—

the single note chirp

of sparrow, the bass of raven,

the chickadee’s hey swee-tee.


Some gifts come only

when we stay in one place,

come only when we are alone,

come only when we stop praying

to be somewhere else and instead

pray to be here.







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To listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.

—Mark Nepo



Let me listen.

Let me not know what to say.

Let me receive the world

as it slurs and shrieks,

hums and whispers,

speaks and bleats.

Let me lean ever closer in.

There are walls I have built

in my ears. There is so much

I would rather not hear.

Let me listen.

Let me receive with wonder.

Let all be worthy of note.

Let me be witness, eavesdropper,

spy. Let me never pretend

to be deaf.

Let the world slip into me

and change me

as light changes a room.

Let me be silent, let me listen,

and in listening,

let me be new.




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I listen for the hidden wholeness, wisdom, and grace.

            —Wayne Muller



I’ve forgotten how to listen

for the hidden wholeness—

trained by the ring of the phone

and the morning alarm and

the unheard bells of the day

that say “go, go, go.”

I’ve forgotten how to be still.

To empty. To unexpect.


Today, though it is May,

the green world is covered

by snow. It’s one way the world

learns to unknow itself.


My teacher reminds me

how the deepest healing

can only take place in the quiet,

the still, the great awake.


I know she is right, but

it is the kind of knowing

that is too certain of itself.


As I walk, I open my hands

to let the snow land there.

I watch the flakes melt.

For a moment, I almost think

I can hear them. For a moment,

I forget who is doing the listening.




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Consider the generosity of the chair,

sitting there with its arms open, its back straight,

its seat ever ready to hold you.


Consider how it was made to support you—

how its legs take all your weight.

Perhaps it is beautiful, artful, handsome.


Perhaps it exists for function alone.

When is the last time you knew yourself

as that useful? When is the last time


you gave yourself so completely to another,

said to them, Sit, please. As long as you wish.

I am here for you. I am here.



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teaching our voices

to kneel to each other—

such a genuine way

to listen

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This is the way
I want to sing,
the way rain does
as it pummels the house,
scouring the gutters—
no way to ignore it
as it batters the rooftop,
the windows, the porch.

I want to sing
that ferocious, that
untamable, true as rain
which touches everything, everything,
even reaches inside
with its deep gray scent,

O great tides of it
changing the landscape,
rearranging the hillsides,
finding the roots—
a song of change right now
and change sure to come.

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Walking into the snow
we speak in plain language.
This is all I need.
What could be more important
to say to each other than,
How are you doing?
and then take the time
to really listen to the answer,
and to the answer beneath
the answer.

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Here, darling, let me
listen to your heart.

Let’s close the computers,
and mute the phones

and hush the long list
of things to do and sit

here together and listen.
We can be alone wherever we are.

Any part of me that wants
to fix you, I will invite it to still.

Any part of me that wants to debate,
I will notice it and allow it to fall.

I will not say anything
at all, except perhaps I’ll hum.

Maybe nothing will happen.
And maybe as the elders say,

we will be changed

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